James Darling, front, and Robert Fuller are in their fourth day of a hunger strike, protesting logging of B.C.’s old-growth forests. Other protesters on Dunsmuir Street on Thursday included Carole Toothill and Vic Brice. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

Vancouver Island pair holding hunger strike to protest logging of old-growth forests

James Darling and Robert Fuller are in the fifth day of their protest in Nanaimo

Two Nanaimo men are holding a hunger strike in hopes of protecting B.C.’s remaining old-growth forests.

James Darling and Robert Fuller, representing Extinction Rebellion, are into their fifth day protesting in front of Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson’s office on Dunsmuir Street.

Fuller said they want a moratorium on old-growth logging until the province’s old growth strategic review report is publicly released.

“The old-growth ecosystems are still being cut down while this report is waiting to be tabled,” said Fuller.

RELATED: B.C.’s logging industry pleads for certainty as push away from old-growth continues

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Darling said the hunger strike is a means to draw attention to what he said is a “major, major problem.” He said old-growth forests are essential habitat for species at risk and said humans will be affected in turn. He said he’s worried about the future being left for his two-year-old son.

“If people don’t step up and make a stand for what’s still there, it’s all going to be gone,” Darling said.

Carole Toothill, who has also been protesting on Dunsmuir Street this week, pointed to a recent independent study by B.C. ecologists, timed to coincide with the provincial review, that questioned the government’s estimates of remaining old-growth.

“If you look at British Columbia, our forests are fragments now,” Toothill said.

Malcolmson wasn’t available for an interview Thursday, but said in an e-mailed statement that the old growth strategic review report will be released “in due time.”

She said the B.C. government knows how critical old-growth forests are for biodiversity and fish and wildlife habitat.

“We want to protect the health and sustainability of our forests and ensure our forest industry can support good-paying jobs for people across B.C.,” she said. “We are committed to a science-based approach that includes First Nations, industry, communities, and workers.”

Regarding the strike in front of her office, Malcolmson said the government respects people’s right to peacefully protest.

Darling and Fuller said they sent a letter to every B.C. MLA expressing their concern about logging of old-growth forests. The men said they’ve heard a lot of honks of support and said passersby nearly unanimously agree with their sentiment. As for the hunger strike, Fuller said he consulted with his doctor and will heed advice to pay close attention to his health and to be safe.

“It’s definitely physically unpleasant,” added Darling, “but I’m willing to put up with it because it’s that important.”

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OPINION: Clearcutting B.C.’s last old-growth leaves all of us poorer, forever

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